Category Archives: Constant

A non-profit association, an interdisciplinary arts-lab working from Brussels since 1997. The artistic and activist practice of Constant is inspired by the way that technological infrastructures, data-exchange and software determine our daily life.

www.constantvzw.org

pattern.en.paternalism

June 23, 2015 Constant

Report delivered at the fourth gathering of the Posthuman Glossary series:

pattern.en.paternalism is a contribution proposed to Pattern, a web mining module initiated by the Computational Linguistics & Psycholinguistics research center at the University of Antwerp. The pattern.en.paternalism feature should allow one to detect if and to what extent a text could be considered ‘paternalist’.

We launched the experimental development of this feature in an attempt to understand the actual conditions, context and work of annotation involved in the practice of datamining. As we slowly got to grips with the way human actors are collaborating with algorithms in establishing patterns for future recognition, we realised how much the common-sensical nature of data-mining is geared towards producing predictable, conventional and plausible results. In other words data-mining avoids surprises while promising to let the data ‘speak for itself’. We started to wonder where to locate difference, ambiguity and dissent.

pattern.en.paternalism is one of the many ways that Constant, an association for art and media active in Brussels since 1997, has been paying attention to algorithmicity and its consequences. This report opens up some of Constant’s methods and tactics, and shows how the vectors of Free software, copyright alternatives and (cyber)feminism continue to orient our collective work.

Algorithmic Cultures and Security: fourth gathering in the Posthuman Glossary series
@ BAK, Utrecht (NL)

With: Matthew Fuller, Maria Hlavajova, Rosi Braidotti, Luciana Parisi, Matteo Pasquinelli

Notes/slides: slides.pdf

The Annotator

May 10, 2015 Constant
The Annotators at work (Photo: Nicolas Malevé)

The Annotators at work (Photo: Nicolas Malevé)

Machine-learning algorithms that partially automate data processing still need to be trained for every new form, or every new kind of topic the algorithm might deal with. (…) Such work of alignment is not a bug — it is the condition of possibility for keeping humans and automation working in the same world.1

During Cqrrelations (“poetry to the statistician, science to the dissident and detox to the data-addict”), we developed the pattern.en.paternalism feature.

From the start we were interested in how a Gold Standard is established, a paradoxical situation where human input performs truth, but is simultaneously made invisible. Annotation here means the manual work of ‘scoring’ large amounts of data that can than be used for ‘training’ algorithms. This scored data becomes a reference against which data-mining algorithms are trained and tested.

Read the full report: http://www.cqrrelations.constantvzw.org/1×0/the-annotator/

Mixed experience

October 29, 2014 Body and software, Constant

This workshop asks how digital tools can refuse strict separations between ‘users’ and ‘developers’, both in the way they are built and how they are put to use.

Mixed experience starts from experiments by artists, designers and programmers affiliated with Constant and design caravan OSP. Our tools are sometimes built from scratch, and often combine existing packages in ways that allow actual experiences of and with software.

Rooting our work in the culture of Free, Libre and Open Source software allows us to critically interrogate how tools condition our practice but above all is an invitation to use, study, distribute and improve software. It inspires us to mix the expertise of ‘users’ and ‘developers’ and to work simultaneously on the level of code, structure and design. In order to shift our digital practices away from the pressures of meritocracy and the limits of technocentrism, we need to make tools together.

Workshop in the context of PIPES (Participatory Investgation of Public Engaging Spaces), and in collaboration with OSP (Open Source Publishing).

‘I think that conversations are the best, biggest thing that free software has to offer its users’

October 15, 2014 Constant, Free software, Lecture

In this presentation Femke introduces a book-in-the-making, an extensive collection of conversations between developers and designers involved in the wider ecosystem of Libre Graphics. Speaking to each other about tools for typography, lay-out and image processing they render a portrait of a community gradually understanding the interdependencies between software and design.

Edited in collaboration with Christoph Haag http://lafkon.net

We don’t live in this kind of world

For the seminar Public Library. Über Infrastrukturen der Wissensbildung (Public Library. About infrastructures of knowledge formation), Femke prepares a new episode of Fathers of the Internet, charting the overtures between an Internet giant, local governments and a historical archive.

“In 1944, Belgium universalist and documentalist Paul Otlet died a disillusioned man. In his lifetime he only partially realised The Mundaneum, an encyclopedic survey of human knowledge which would ‘progressively constitute a permanent and complete representation of the entire world‘. While Otlet is being rediscovered as “a founding father of the Internet”, Google adopted the remains of his archive in Mons. Located in a former mining area in the south of Belgium, Mons is not only home town to prime minister Elio Di Rupo, but also conveniently located next to one of Google’s largest datacenters in Europe. This lecture explores the messy entanglements of faltering local governments, dreams of accessible knowledge, and the hopeful desire for corporate patronage.”

Worksession GenderBlending

Gender Blending gathers body hackers, 3D theorists, game activists, queer designers and software feminists around the table to challenge typical digital representations of the body, bending the rules of both gender and software. Using 3D animation software Blender, medical bodyscanners and 3D-printers, we’ll experiment at the contact zones of gender and technology.

In 6 days, 3 interdisciplinary groups will develop three interconnected proposals for modelling digital bodies differently. Each thread is prepared by two or three invited guests.
Throughout the week we’ll organise discussions, small workshops and presentations for all participants. This will allow us to work through theoretical and material specifics of imagining gender (social readings and constructed imaginations) in a digital context.

We’ll use Free, Libre and Open Source software such as MakeHuman, Blender, Openscad, Freecad and PyMol. Participants bring their own laptop with Linux installed or can borrow a computer for the duration of the session (limited availability).

Participation is free; maximum 25 places available. Please write femke@constantvzw.org if you are interested in participating.

Organised by Constant, Brussels in collaboration with De Beursschouwburg, Anne Smolar and Željko Blaće; contributions by Pink Screens, Maria Ptqk, Tom Weller, ginger coons

Fathers of the internet

January 1, 2014 Constant, Mondotheque

Belgium universalist, pacifist and documentalist Paul Otlet was recently recognized as ‘a founding father of the Internet’ by Google evangelist Vincent Cerf. While socialist Prime Minister Elio di Rupo lured the multinational to build a gigantesque datacenter in the region with the help of subsidies and tax-cuts, Google adopted the remains of Otlet’s archive in Mons. An ongoing investigation.

Files: https://gitorious.org/fathers-of-the-internet
Notes: http://pad.constantvzw.org/p/fathers

The Death of the Authors: 1941

March 24, 2013 Constant

The Death of the Authors is a generative novel made with Python and nltk, based on texts by Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Rabindranath Tagore, Elizabeth Von Arnim, Sherwood Anderson and Henri Bergson, some of the authors we welcomed on 1-1-12. The print publication was presented on the Public Domain Day event in Bibliothèque Royale, Brussels, Belgium (With An Mertens).

http://publicdomainday.constantvzw.org/